Health minister Harsh Vardhan discusses India’s COVID crisis with US counterpart

Indian Health Indian Harsh Vardhan on Friday had a virtual meeting with his American counterpart, Xavier Becerra, discussing the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases in India. US Health and Human Services Secretary Becerra, in his conversation with Vardhan, reaffirmed the strong US support to India at this time of crisis, according to a readout of the call. India is experiencing a raging second wave of the pandemic, with over 400,000 coronavirus infections and over 3,000 deaths being reported daily for the last one week. According to the Health Ministry, India’s total tally of COVID-19 cases stood at 2,14,91,598 on Friday, with the death toll at 2,34,083. India-US bilateral cooperation on COVID-19, which builds on a strong foundation, has been crucial not only for the health of our two countries, but critical to the global response as well, the two leaders said. Expressing his deep gratitude to Vardhan for India’s help and generosity to the US in the early days of the pandemic, Becerra expressed his pleasure that the US had been able to respond now in kind to support India in its time of need. Appreciating recent US donation of urgently needed resources to battle the ongoing surge of cases, Vardhan said that these supplies include oxygen tanks, oxygen generators, therapeutics, vaccine manufacturing components, PPE, and rapid diagnostic tests among other critical items. The US government has announced USD 100 million assistance to India to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. In about a week’s time, as many as six plane loads of COVID-19 assistance have landed in India. In addition, public health experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US, will continue to work hand-in-hand to support the efforts of their Indian counterparts, the readout said. During the call, the secretary also noted the recent announcement of US support for a waiver of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines and future World Trade Organization negotiations. He thanked Minister Vardhan for India’s leadership on this important issue. Vardhan discussed the need to work closely together in the international arena, including strengthening the World Health Organization and building upon lessons learned from the COVID-19 response. In recognising Vardhan as the chair of the WHO Executive Board, Becerra emphasised that US looks forward to working closely with India on WHO reform, said the readout.

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